I recently travelled to London for a weekend with my husband for our first ever weekend visit after 27 years of marriage. We we staying near St Paul's Cathedral and whilst chatting with a friend she recommended the viewing gallery in St Paul's as a marvellous alternative to the London Eye.
I had never known or heard of this view, so I did some investigating on the internet first. I saw the details of The Whispering gallery inside – high in the cathedral and that you could climb up inside the Cathedral and access the external viewing platform outside the dome.
We paid our entrance fee, which seems quite expensive, but probably comparable to other attractions, the beauty of this one though is that your ticket is valid for 12 months and can be reused numerous times within this time.
The Cathedral is so beautiful and vast. My only other experience of it has been viewing it for Royal Weddings on TV, most recently Catherine and William's. The TV coverage does not do it justice – far nicer in 'real life'
We found the entrance to the stairs to climb the interior. I did notice a sign stating that the climb was not recommended for people with certain health conditions or claustrophobia – but I didn't pay it too much attentions. The staircase starts quite wide but as we climbed it becomes very tortuous and narrow. I have to admit to feeling quite closed in at times and a little uncomfortable when we occasionally got bunched up with fellow visitors.
When we reached the Whispering gallery – I was amazed at how high it was above the Cathedral floor. The Gallery walkway is quite narrow and I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable as I am quite scared of heights. My husband loves heights and loved this view.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I was feeling scared at this point. There was a volunteer up on the Gallery for the assistance of visitors, she was quite an elderly lady. She could see I was very nervous and came to chat. When I asked her where the stairs were to descend, I was horrified to find out that I had to walk most of the way around to reach them. However, she chatted to me and persuaded me to climb up further within the Cathedral to the next stage, which is an external viewing gallery. She encouraged me that although it was even higher the platform is outside, airy and much wider, also because of the brickwork I could not look down but look across only across the rooftops of London. She was very reassuring so I decided to take the plunge, also because I did not want to ruin my husbands experience
The stairs to the next climb were even narrower and twisting. I could see why the climb is not recommended for anyone suffering from claustrophobia. I was beginning to feel very hot. When we reached the outside platform I found that she was absolutely right. The air was refreshing and the view fabulous. You could walk around the whole of the circumference of the dome. The view was outstanding – many of the landmarks were visible, including The Shard. I did not feel anxious looking at that height. There is a further climb to the top gallery just below the summit of the dome. We didn't take this further climb as I was pleased with how far I'd climbed but didn't want to go any higher, also my husband had recently recovered from knee surgery and didn't want to push his knee joint to it's limits on the descent, which is as challenging as the climb for different reasons as the steps are quite narrow and makes you fearful of losing your footing and falling.
In summary though if you are someone not bothered by heights and enclosed spaces it is a fabulous experience. I should imagine it could be better than the London Eye, as there is an element of hanging around waiting for the capsules to be loaded. (I have been on the Manchester Eye, so have encountered a similar experience of this).
I would recommend this attraction and have to say was quietly pleased with myself for having completed the climb. You can really feel the history and magic of this beautiful historic building.